Pepper Steak

CHINESE PEPPER STEAK that is restaurant delicious but easy to make at home!

This Pepper Steak Recipe rivals your favorite takeout but is healthier and made with pantry friendly ingredients.  It boasts buttery tender beef and crisp-tender bell peppers enveloped in a dynamic stir fry sauce infused with garlic, ginger, sesame oil and chili sauce. This Pepper Steak recipe is easy to customize and easy to make ahead – then it’s just a quick stir fry to dinner!  You can serve the Pepper Steak with rice or low carb cauliflower rice or zoodles along with homemade egg rolls and crab rangoons – then you’ll never want to order Chinese takeout again!

showing how to garnish Chinese Pepper Steak with an up close of Pepper Steak  in a bowl with sesame seeds and green onions

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Pepper Steak Recipe

Chinese takeout is one of my favorite cuisines to make at home and this Pepper Steak recipe does not disappoint!  It will satisfy all of your Chinese food cravings with its juicy beef, sweet, bell peppers and complex layers of savory, garlicy, gingery and as-spicy-as-you-want-it essence.

As much as I love the end result of this Pepper Steak, I especially love how it’s such a quick prep-ahead meal.  By marinating the beef and slicing the peppers ahead of time, you can literally have dinner on the table in 10 minutes once you start cooking!  So, please don’t shy away when you look at the ingredient list – it is long – but most of the ingredients are just dump and whisk; I wouldn’t want you to cheat yourself out of this sensationally satisfying Pepper Steak recipe!

REASONS TO LOVE Pepper STEAK RECIPE:

  • Family friendly:  everyone loves Chinese Pepper Steak!  Unlike my Szechuan Beef, it is not spicy – or only as spicy as you want to make it. 
  • Easy:  although this recipe takes some planning ahead due to marinating the beef – it is SO easy! Marinate the steak, chop the bell peppers and aromatics, whisk the stir fry sauce together then cook! 
  • Simple ingredients:  this Pepper Steak recipe is made with pantry staples if you do much Asian cooking at all.  If not, you can easily find all of the ingredients at your grocery store.  Keep some flank steak in the freezer then you can make it any time.
  • FLAVOR!  the stir fry sauce is bursting with aromatic garlic and ginger along with soy sauce, chicken broth, oyster sauce and chili sauce for a savory, salty, deeply satisfying richness that envelops every nook and cranny of the fresh stir-fried Chinese Pepper Steak.
  • Juicy and tender:  I’ve included a simple marinade which also includes a secret ingredient that will deliver the most, tender, juicy steak ever.
  • Customizable:   use whatever veggies you have on hand; add more or less heat, any variety of CRUNCH such as peanuts, cashews or water chestnuts and/or even add fruit such as pineapple or mangos.  I also like to mix up how I serve my Pepper Steak:  over rice, zoodles, or ramen, or even dice the steak smaller and serve in lettuce wraps.
  • Make ahead.  The fantastic thing about this Pepper Steak recipe is it can be prepped ahead. Marinate your steak, chop your bell peppers and whisk the stir fry sauce together.  The sauce can be stored for weeks, then just thrown into the skillet when you’re ready to cook!

Now, I’m going to break down this Pepper Steak recipe and try and answer all your questions as well as offer some tips and tricks.  You can use my “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to skip straight to the recipe.

WHAT IS PEPPER STEAK?

You have probably seen or devoured Pepper Steak at your favorite Chinese restaurant – and if not, this recipe is your chance.  Pepper Steak (Chinese: 青椒牛肉) is a stir-fried Chinese American dish consisting of thinly sliced marinated steak (usually flank or sirloin) stir fried to juicy perfection with green and red bell peppers in a savory sauce.  The sauce ingredients can vary, but it is typically soy based, seasoned with ginger and garlic and thickened by cornstarch.

Pepper Steak evolved in the United States in the late 1940s from a Hokkien cuisine favorite known as qīngjiāo ròusī (青椒炒肉絲).  Hokkien cuisine, or Fujian cuisine, is most notably from the provincial capital, Fsuzhou, China.  It emphasizes umami taste and is light but flavorful. The original dish used pork instead of steak and was lightly seasoned compared to the modern Chinese American spin. Today, Pepper Steak is widely available at Chinese restaurants in American and hopefully soon to be found in your home!

WHAT DOES PEPPER STEAK TASTE LIKE?

Chinese Pepper Steak boats a dynamic layering of flavors.  Salty soy sauce, salty- sweet oyster sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame oil to create a complex, savory stir fry with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar. The savory sauce further balanced by the sweet bell peppers. We also like to make Pepper Steak spicy with plenty of chili sauce.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN Pepper STEAK, MONGOLIAN BEEF, BEEF & BROCCOLI AND SZECHUAN BEEF?

If you’re like me, you love Chinese food and hopefully have tried many of my Chinese steak recipes. So, you might be wondering how they are different and if you need to try them all – the answer is YES and they differentiate in:

  • PEPPER STEAK VS MONGOLIAN BEEF:  Pepper Steak has more of an umami taste whereas Mongolian Beef is more mildly-sweet. Both recipes use some of the same ingredients such as soy sauce and brown sugar but Steak and Peppers replaces the sweeter hoisin sauce with more savory oyster sauce.
  • PEPPER STEAK  VS BEEF AND BROCCOLI: Pepper Steak and Beef and Broccoli share a similar flavor profile.  They use much of the same stir fry sauce ingredients such as oyster sauce, chicken broth and brown sugar but Pepper Steak replaces some of the oyster sauce with soy sauce for a less robust umami flavor.  Steak and Peppers also obviously uses peppers and Beef and Broccoli uses broccoli in the stir fry.
  • PEPPER STEAK  VS SZECHUAN BEEF:  Both recipes begin with a similar stir fry sauce but Szechuan Beef contains Szechuan peppercorns that adds the unique, complex flavor notes and a tingly sensation that sets it apart.  Szechuan Been also contains more chili paste which makes its spicier.
showing how to make Chinese Pepper Steak by combining steak,  bell  peppers and stir fry sauce in a stainless steel pan  with a wooden spoon

WHAT KIND OF BEEF IS USED FOR PEPPER STEAK?

I recommend flank steak for this Peppers and Steak recipe because it has just the right amount of marbling for maximum flavor and emerges buttery tender once marinated and cooks up quickly without becoming chewy or rubbery (just don’t overcook!). It is also less expensive than prime cuts but emerges equally delicious.

You are also welcome to use tenderloin, sirloin or ribeye steak for this Chinese Pepper Steak recipe if you already have it on hand, but otherwise, I wouldn’t spend the extra money on it.

HOW DO YOU MAKE CHINESE PEPPER STEAK TENDER?

This Chinese Pepper Steak is crazy tender thanks to 1) slicing the beef thinly, 2) slicing the beef across the grain and 3) marinating the beef.  The marinade is a very thick combination of soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch etc. and it makes ALL the difference between buttery tender beef and okay beef.  Here’s how it works:

  • soy sauce:  the salt in the soy sauce helps break down the proteins for a more tender texture and infuses the steak with flavor.
  • rice wine: is an acidic ingredient that breaks down lean muscle fibers on the surface meat.
  • cornstarch: acts as a binder and helps our soy sauce bind to the meat for more flavorful beef.   Cornstarch also provides a light coating that helps protect it from the intense heat when cooking. 

To elevate the Pepper Steak marinade even more so the beef is bursting with flavor through and through, we add:

  • 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

Now the Chinese Pepper Steak is undeniably the most tender, flavorful steak you’ve ever encountered on its own – now just wait for the stir fry sauce!

WHAT INGREDIENTS FOR PEPPER STEAK STIR FRY SAUCE?

The Pepper Steak stir-fry sauce is exploding with complex flavor but is super easy to make. The ingredient list might seem a bit lengthy, but all you do is whisk everything together.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • chicken broth:  use low sodium chicken broth so you can control the salt level.  You can also use vegetable broth but chicken broth is more flavorful. Please DO NOT use water as I’ve tried this and will leave you with sad, wanting results.
  • soy sauce:  use low sodium soy sauce or your Chinese Pepper Steak will be too salty.
  • oyster sauce:  is a necessity in stir fry recipes.  It adds that extra punch of flavor that takeout sauces have and will elevate your Pepper Steak recipe to new heights.  Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone, due to the oyster extracts.  You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars.  Please use QUALITY oyster sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman.  You truly can taste the difference and will be sorely disappointed with less quality brands.
  • brown sugar:  adds just a little adds sweetness to balance the soy and vinegar.  You may need more or less depending on personal taste. 
  • Japanese rice wine should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking.  I use it in almost all of my Asian Recipes from my Beef Bulgogi  to my Mongolian Chicken to my Sesame Noodles
  • Where do I Buy Rice Wine? I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.
  • Asian Chili Sauce:  if you feel like your Chinese Pepper Steak is missing something, it is probably heat!  I recommend adding more to taste at the end of cooking if you would like it spicier.  I use Sambal Oelek with the green lid but you can also use your favorite chili sauce and adjust accordingly.
  • toasted sesame oil:  a “secret ingredient” that adds an irresistible, subtle nutty flavor.
  • Ginger, Onions and Garlic: (added with the stir fry) add warm spicy, almost pepper taste.  These aromatics awaken and elevate the entire Pepper Steak recipe. If you’re looking to save time and skip some chopping, you can substitute the fresh onions, garlic and ginger with powders. The typical rule of thumb is 3:1, so one part dried to three parts fresh.
  • Chinese 5 spice:  is thought to have come from ancient Chinese who were attempting to produce a “wonder powder” that encompasses all five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and a spicy. It contains Szechuan peppercorn, ground cloves, fennel, star anise and cinnamon.   Chinese 5 Spice can be found with the rest of the seasonings in your grocery store.  I also use it in my phenomenal Chinese Chicken Wings. and Szechuan Chicken.
  • salt and pepper: every recipe benefits from salt and pepper – they enhance the rest of the flavors.   Use more or less to taste.  
  • cornstarch:  helps thicken the sauce to a glossy, luscious consistency without a raw flour taste.

HOW DO I THICKEN THE STIR FRY SAUCE?

The cornstarch in both the sauce and from the beef marinade will thicken the sauce as it simmers with the bell peppers.  If you still would like a thicker sauce, then just keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency, but take care not to overcook your bell peppers.  For an even thicker sauce, make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons chicken broth then adding it to the simmering sauce.  Repeat this step as desired.

HOW DO I THIN THE STIR FRY SAUCE?

Your stir fry sauce will thicken more the longer it is simmers. If it simmers to the point of too thick, don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in additional chicken broth or water. 

HOW DO I STORE THE STIR FRY SAUCE?

Stir fry sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Shake it up or whisk it to recombine before using.

top view of pepper steak in a bowl garnished with green onions and sesame seeds

CAN I ADD OTHER VEGETABLES?

Chinese Pepper Steak is named for its two main ingredients – bell peppers and steak- so essentially you need bell peppers in order to make “Pepper Steak.” That being said, if you don’t have bell peppers on hand you can still make a steak stir fry – just don’t call it Pepper Steak 😉.   You can also swap one of the bell peppers for other vegetables.

If using other stir fry vegetables, you can mix and match based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale such as: 

  • Bean sprouts (popular addition)
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Snow Peas
  • Snap Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Edamame
  • Cabbage (green or red)
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy

WHAT ELSE CAN I ADD TO CHINESE PEPPER STEAK?

This Chinese Pepper Steak doesn’t have to be limited to just protein and veggies.  I often like to add nuts to my stir fries.  Here are some ideas: 

  • Nuts:  peanuts or cashews add a deeply satisfying crunch that you will CRAVE in every bite!  Take care to purchase raw, unsalted nuts.  To elevate your cashews or peanuts, dry roast them in a nonstick skillet until toasted- YUM!
  • Water chestnuts:  also add a tantalizing crunch.  Water chestnuts are easy to find in a can so you can keep them stocked and ready to go.
  • Sesame seeds:  add the nutty sesame flavor.  Take care to use toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself.
  • Pineapple:  for sweet and savory think teriyaki chicken and pineapple. 
  • Mango: one of my favorite fruits to add to EVERYTHING.  If you’re intimidated by choosing or cutting mangos, check out this post here.
  • Mandarin oranges:  use canned or fresh.  Fresh hold together better but canned or super convenient.
  • Ramen:  use less veggies so your stir fry is saucier and add some cooked ramen.

IS PEPPER STEAK GLUTEN FREE?

As written, this Pepper Steak recipe is not gluten free – but almost!  To make it gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.  You will also want to double check that your oyster sauce and chili sauce are gluten free.  The rest of the stir fry ingredients are gluten free.

PEPPER STEAK VARIATIONS

While this Pepper Steak sauce is just right for us, you can adjust it to make it just right for YOU and your family’s personal tastes. Just keep a note of your adjustments then whip out the perfect stir fry sauce every time.  

  • sweeten it up with additional brown sugar or swap the sugar for honey
  • add sweet heat with sweet chili sauce
  • for extra tang, add additional rice wine
  • spice it up with additional chili sauce
  • add herbs such as Thai basil, coriander or cilantro
  • amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor
  • add fun with nuts, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, pineapple, mangos or Mandarin oranges

HOW SPICY IS PEPPER STEAK?

This Pepper Steak recipe is not spicy, just savory and flavorful.  The “pepper” in the name doesn’t refer to black pepper or chile peppers, but rather mild, sweet bell peppers. That being said, I love adding some heat to my Chinese Pepper Steak – it makes all of the other flavors come alive.  You can customize the heat of this Pepper Steak recipe so it’s perfect for you.  This is particularly easy to do because we are using chili paste which is easy to add more to taste at the end instead of whole chili peppers 

In this Pepper Steak recipe, I have given a range of 1-2 tablespoons Asian chili paste. If you use 1 tablespoon Asian chili paste it should be medium spicy.  If you use the full 2 tablespoons, it should be on the spicier side, but not crazy spicy.

If you know you don’t like very spicy food, then I would only use ½ tablespoon Asian chili sauce.  From there, you can add Asian chili sauce to taste at the end of cooking. 

showing how to serve Pepper Steak recipe by adding to a bowl of white rice

HOW DO YOU MAKE PEPPER STEAK?

  • Thinly slice beef.   You will want to slice your beef into ¼” slices – no thicker.  It is much easier to thinly slice your steak if you freeze it for 60 minutes or so; however long it takes so it doesn’t slide when cutting.  The frozen beef defrosts quickly, so I will slice the beef in thirds and work with one third at a time while the rest of the beef stays in the freezer.  The beef will continue to completely defrost in the marinade. 
showing how to make Pepper Steak  recipe by thinly slicing flank steak across the grain on a wood cutting board
  • Slice your beef ACROSS the grain.   You can marinate your steak and slice it thinly, but if you slice it the wrong way, your meat will be chewy.  When you look at your steak, you can see the muscle fibers “grain” running through the meat in one direction. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible, as opposed to parallel which will result in long muscle fibers and chewy, rubbery meat. 
  • Marinate beef.  A marinade is crucial when using less expensive cuts of beef such as flank steak in order to break down the muscle fibers and tenderize the steak Our marinade will be thick and not your typical runny marinade.  Let the steak sit at room temperature 30-60 minutes or even better, marinate in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. If you do refrigerate your steak, make sure to let it come to room temperature, about 30 minutes before cooking.  This will ensure it cooks evenly.  
showing how to make Pepper Steak  by marinating slices of flank steak in a glass bowl with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, Chili sauce and cornstarch
  • Make stir fry sauce.  Whisk the stir fry sauce ingredients together consisting of oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, Asian chili sauce, rice wine, Chili sauce, Chinese 5 Spice and cornstarch.  You can make the sauce at the same time as the marinade, cover and refrigerate OR when ready to cook the beef.
showing how to make Chinese Pepper Steak by whisking the stir fry sauce ingredients together In a white bowl: soy sauce, oyster sauce, chinese 5 spice,  chicken broth, brown sugar
  • Stir Fry Beef.  Heat 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil a large skillet over high heat until very hot and sizzling. It is important that the skillet be smoking hot so that the beef will sear and not steam.  Working in 2-3 batches (depending on the size of your skillet) add beef to the skillet and line in a single layer and sear for 1 minute, flip over and sear the other side.  Don’t worry about the beef cooking completely because it will cook more in the sauce. Don’t overcook or it won’t be as tender!  Transfer beef to a large plate and cover.
showing how to make Pepper Steak  recipe by stir frying steak in a stainless steal skillet
  • Stir fry bell peppers and aromatics. To the now empty skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté two minutes; add bell peppers, garlic and ginger and sauté one additional minute.  You don’t want to overcook your bell peppers because they will continue to soften once we add the beef and sauce.
showing how to make Pepper Steak  recipe by stir frying red, yellow and green bell peppers in a stainless steel pan
  • Combine.  Whisk the sauce to recombine then add to the skillet along with the beef. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, the beef is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and add additional chili sauce if desired.
showing how to make Chinese Pepper Steak by adding cooked steak back to the stir fried bell peppers in the stainless steel pan

HOW DO I MAKE CRISPY PEPER STEAK?

This Pepper Steak is more tender than crispy because it is sautéed verses fried.  To create crispy steak, you will need to fry the steak:

  • Toss steak in an additional 2 tablespoons cornstarch right before cooking.
  • Fill the bottom of a heavy bottom pan completely with vegetable oil or other high smoking point oil until it reaches ¼-inch up the sides.
  • Heat oil over medium high heat until it very hot and smoking – the oil should sizzle if you flick water on it (375 degrees F).
  • Add steak in a single layer using tongs.
  • Fry for 1-2 minute or until deeply golden. If the steak is not completely submerged, then flip after 1 minute and cook an additional minute on the other side or until deeply golden.
  • Remove to a cooling rack set over paper towels to drain.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR PEPPER STEAK RECIPE

This Pepper Steak recipe is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of some tips and tricks to make it a sizzling success:

TIPS FOR TENDER STEAK:

  • Use a sharp knife. Sharpen your knife before slicing the steak to ensure buttery clean cuts.
  • Freeze steak.   Place your steak in the freezer 60 minutes before cutting. This will help it not wiggle beneath your knife so it’s much easier to slice thinly and cleanly.
  • Slice steak into thirds.  I recommend slicing your steak into thirds before you freeze it so you can work with one third at a time while the rest of the steak stays frozen.
  • Slice steak across the grain.  You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers running through the steak in one direction so they become as short as possible and virtually undiscernible.  If you cut with the grain, the fibers are left long which results in chewy, rubbery steak. 
  • Slice steak thinly.  This goes with slicing your steak across the grain – by slicing your steak thinly (about ¼-inch slices), you are shortening the muscle fibers which results in more tender steak.
  • Use a hot skillet.  Make sure your skillet is smoking hot before adding your steak so it will sear on the outside and remain tender on the inside.
  • Don’t overlap steak. Add steak to the skillet in a single layer to sear otherwise it will steam.
  • Cook steak in batches.   You will need to cook your steak in 2-3 batches so there is enough room for it to sear in a single layer.
  • Don’t overcook steak.  Overcooked steak means tough steak.  Don’t cook your steak completely when searing because it will continue to cook when you will add it back to the skillet with the stir fry sauce

TIPS FOR THE BEST STIR FRY:

  • Use correct oil.  You may substitute the vegetable oil with peanut oil but please don’t use olive oil because olive oil has a lower smoking point and stronger flavor.
  • Prep veggies and sauce first.  While your steak is marinating, chop the bell peppers and aromatics and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start actually cooking the Pepper Steak because the actually stir-frying takes just a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your bell peppers are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • Dry vegetables.  It is important that the bell peppers are dry or they will steam and not get the characteristic stir-fry texture. To dry vegetables, pat them very dry with paper towels.
  • Garlic pro tip: purchase the pre-bagged, already peeled garlic to save time.  They are actually less expensive than whole garlic cloves (at least when I did the math).
  • Ginger pro tip:  I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips.  To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour.  Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months.   You can add frozen ginger directly to your stir fry.
  • Onion pro tip:  to help prevent tearing up while you slice your onions, freeze the onion for 30 minutes.  The cold slows the conversion of sulfoxides into those irritating eye-stinging gases.
  • Use quality ingredients. QUALITY oyster sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman is essential because you can TASTE the difference!
  • Use rice wine and NOT rice wine vinegar.  Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor.
  • Customize heat. Use more or less chili sauce depending on how spicy you want your Pepper Steak recipe.
  • Don’t overcook bell peppers.  I suggest setting the timer for 1 minute – it can go fast and you don’t want to overcook the bell peppers.  It is better to under-cook them when stir frying then allow them to reach desired-crisp tenderness once you add the stir fry sauce.
  • Add sauce to the sides of the pan.  Pour the stir fry sauce around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center.  This will prevent the pan from cooling down too much.  
showing how to make Pepper Steak by simmering sauce with steak and peppers in a stainless steel pan

HOW TO PREP CHINESE PEPPER STEAK AHEAD OF TIME

Chinese Pepper Steak has a few steps, but you can prep EVERYTHING ahead of time so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is cook! Here’s how:

  • Slice steak:  you can do this at any time before marinating or just before marinating then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Marinate steak:  marinate your beef 30 minutes up to 8 hours before cooking.
  • Make stir-fry sauce:  whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.
  • Chop veggies:  you can slice your bell peppers and onions, chop your garlic, and grate your ginger 24 hours in advance and store in separate air tight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook!  Now all that’s left to do is stir fry within the next 48 hours without any of the prep!

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH PEPPER STEAK?

Traditionally, Chinese Pepper Steak is served with rice to soak up all the sauce and for a neutral textural component for all that savory stir fry sauce. 

RICE OPTIONS

  • Rice. I like jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work.  Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.  
  • Low carb.  Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options.   You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Noodles.  Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up! 

IN ADDITION TO RICE, YOU CAN SERVE PEPPER STEAK WITH:

HOW TO STORE & REHEAT Pepper steak

This easy Pepper Steak reheats wonderfully for lunches or dinners, just take care to not overcook it initially. 

  • How to store:  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals. 
  • How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.  You may need to add a splash of water (better yet chicken broth if you have it) to thin the sauce as needed.

CAN I FREEZE PEPPER STEAK?

I do not recommend freezing the Pepper Steak once assembled because the bell peppers can become a mushy texture, but you can freeze the steak and stir fry sauce separately. 

TO FREEZE BEFORE STIR-FRYING

  • Stir Fry Sauce: whisk together, add to a freezer bag or freezer safe airtight container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Steak: you can freeze the steak after combined with the marinade or after its seared.  After you sear the steak, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.  Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

TO FREEZE AFTER STIR-FRYING

If you want to freeze after the Chinese Pepper Steak is already assembled, I suggest picking out the bell peppers or using a different more freezer friendly vegetable such as broccoli. 

  • Let Pepper Steak cool completely in the refrigerator.
  • Transfer to an airtight container.  If using a freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • When ready to eat, let Pepper Steak defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave for 60 seconds then at 30 second intervals or gently on the stove.

LOOKING FOR MORE ASIAN RECIPES?

HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE PEPPER STEAK RECIPE

  • Large Saucepan:  if you don’t have a wok, then a large stainless-steel saucepan is the perfect alternative for stir fries, curries and I also LOVE it for pastas!  They are virtually indestructible, distribute heat evenly, don’t react with acidic ingredients and won’t leech into the food.  I love both my 10 and 12-inch Le Creuset Stainless Steel Pans but this more economical pan also has excellent reviews.
  • Garlic press:  I use this every single day!   It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze.  Unlike other presses, this garlic press has beveled holes that finely cut the clove rather than bruising it, bringing out the best flavor.
  • Zester/micro planer: cooking is made 100X easier when you have the right tools for the job! This zester is razor-sharp and makes grating everything a snap from ginger, lemons, limes, Parmesan, nutmeg and chocolate. 
  • Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!  Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well.  If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
pepper steak in a bowls served with rice

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Chinese Pepper Steak

This Pepper Steak Recipe rivals your favorite takeout but is healthier and made with pantry friendly ingredients. It boasts buttery tender beef and crisp-tender bell peppers enveloped in a dynamic stir fry sauce infused with garlic, ginger, sesame oil and chili sauce. This Pepper Steak recipe is easy to customize and easy to make ahead - then it’s just a quick stir fry to dinner! You can serve the Pepper Steak with rice or low carb cauliflower rice or zoodles along with homemade egg rolls and crab rangoons - then you’ll never want to order Chinese takeout again!
Servings: 4 -6 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

Steak Marinade

Stir-Fry Sauce

Stir Fry

  • 3 bell peppers (any ccolor combo) sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • vegetable oil or peanut oil

Instructions

  • Marinade: Pour marinade ingredients directly into a freezer bag or large bowl and mix well. Add beef and massage in marinade. Marinate at room temperature for 30-60 minutes or refrigerate for 2-8 hours.
  • Sauce: Whisk the stir-fry sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. You can make at the same time as the marinade, cover and refrigerate OR when ready to cook the steak.
  • Cook: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil a large heavy bottom skillet over HIGH heat until very hot and sizzling. Working in 2-3 batches, add steak to the skillet in a single layer and sear 1 minute, flip over and cook 1 more minute (it will cook more in the sauce). Don’t overcook or it won’t be as tender! Transfer steak to a large plate and cover. Repeat.
  • To the now empty skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté two minutes; add bell peppers, garlic and ginger and sauté one additional minute.
  • Combine: Return the beef to the skillet and toss to combine. Whisk the sauce to recombine then add to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and beef is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and add additional chili sauce if desired.
  • Serve: Serve with rice and garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

Notes

TIPS AND TRICKS

This Pepper Steak recipe is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of some tips and tricks to make it a sizzling success:

TIPS FOR TENDER STEAK:

  • Use a sharp knife. Sharpen your knife before slicing the steak to ensure buttery clean cuts.
  • Freeze steak.   Place your steak in the freezer 60 minutes before cutting. This will help it not wiggle beneath your knife so it’s much easier to slice thinly and cleanly.
  • Slice steak into thirds.  I recommend slicing your steak into thirds before you freeze it so you can work with one third at a time while the rest of the steak stays frozen.
  • Slice steak across the grain.  You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers running through the steak in one direction so they become as short as possible and virtually undiscernible.  If you cut with the grain, the fibers are left long which results in chewy, rubbery steak. 
  • Slice steak thinly.  This goes with slicing your steak across the grain – by slicing your steak thinly (about ¼-inch slices), you are shortening the muscle fibers which results in more tender steak.
  • Use a hot skillet.  Make sure your skillet is smoking hot before adding your steak so it will sear on the outside and remain tender on the inside.
  • Don’t overlap steak. Add steak to the skillet in a single layer to sear otherwise it will steam.
  • Cook steak in batches.   You will need to cook your steak in 2-3 batches so there is enough room for it to sear in a single layer.
  • Don’t overcook steak.  Overcooked steak means tough steak.  Don’t cook your steak completely when searing because it will continue to cook when you will add it back to the skillet with the stir fry sauce

TIPS FOR THE BEST STIR FRY:

  • Use correct oil.  You may substitute the vegetable oil with peanut oil but please don’t use olive oil because olive oil has a lower smoking point and stronger flavor.
  • Prep veggies and sauce first.  While your steak is marinating, chop the bell peppers and aromatics and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start actually cooking the Pepper Steak because the actually stir-frying takes just a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your bell peppers are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • Dry vegetables.  It is important that the bell peppers are dry or they will steam and not get the characteristic stir-fry texture. To dry vegetables, pat them very dry with paper towels.
  • Use quality ingredients. QUALITY oyster sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman is essential because you can TASTE the difference!
  • Use rice wine and NOT rice wine vinegar.  Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor.
  • Customize heat. Use more or less chili sauce depending on how spicy you want your Pepper Steak recipe.
  • Don’t overcook bell peppers.  I suggest setting the timer for 1 minute – it can go fast and you don’t want to overcook the bell peppers.  It is better to under-cook them when stir frying then allow them to reach desired-crisp tenderness once you add the stir fry sauce.
  • Add sauce to the sides of the pan.  Pour the stir fry sauce around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center.  This will prevent the pan from cooling down too much.  

PREP AHEAD 

Chinese Pepper Steak has a few steps, but you can prep EVERYTHING ahead of time so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is cook! Here’s how:
  • Slice steak:  you can do this at any time before marinating or just before marinating then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Marinate steak:  marinate your beef 30 minutes up to 8 hours before cooking.
  • Make stir-fry sauce:  whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.
  • Chop veggies:  you can slice your bell peppers and onions, chop your garlic, and grate your ginger 24 hours in advance and store in separate air tight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook!  Now all that’s left to do is stir fry within the next 48 hours without any of the prep!
 

CAN I FREEZE PEPPER STEAK?

I do not recommend freezing the Pepper Steak once assembled because the bell peppers can become a mushy texture, but you can freeze the steak and stir fry sauce separately. 

TO FREEZE BEFORE STIR-FRYING

  • Stir Fry Sauce: whisk together, add to a freezer bag or freezer safe airtight container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Steak: you can freeze the steak after combined with the marinade or after its seared.  After you sear the steak, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.  Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

TO FREEZE AFTER STIR-FRYING

If you want to freeze after the Chinese Pepper Steak is already assembled, I suggest picking out the bell peppers or using a different more freezer friendly vegetable such as broccoli. 
  • Let Pepper Steak cool completely in the refrigerator.
  • Transfer to an airtight container.  If using a freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • When ready to eat, let Pepper Steak defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave for 60 seconds then at 30 second intervals or gently on the stove.

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10 Comments

  1. Sandra Castle says

    why can I not pin some of your recipes.

    • Jen says

      Hi Sandra, I’m not sure, everything is working for me. What pin button are you using? On your browser, the link in the post or the red pin it button?

  2. Rosanna says

    What do you suggest as a substitute for rice wine?

    • Jen says

      White grape juice is the best substitute. Enjoy!

  3. Hilary Wheatley says

    This recipe is awesome, better than take out any day!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Hilary, I’m so happy it was a hit!

  4. Salesha says

    I’ve made this recipe 3 times now. It’s one of my favorites! So many layers of flavors!! I love it.

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thank you so much Salesha!

  5. Peggy says

    Under “WHAT INGREDIENTS FOR PEPPER STEAK STIR FRY SAUCE?”, for oyster sauce, it states to use quality hoisin sauce. So which is it? Thanks.

    • Jen says

      Hi Peggy, it is oyster sauce, enjoy!

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